COVID Update — Jan. 3, 2022: Omicron – Mild Symptoms but Wilton’s Highest-Ever Case Numbers; Test Kit Chaos

Since GOOD Morning Wilton‘s last publication date, Wilton’s COVID case data has mirrored the surge experienced elsewhere, as the Omicron variant has brought the highest case rates the town has seen since the start of the pandemic.

  • Case numbers:  According to the CT Department of Public Health (CT-DPH), there were 334 reported COVID cases in Wilton during the month of December (the most ever in a single month so far), with the majority of cases occurring after Dec. 20. There were 64 new cases reported for the days of Dec. 24-26 alone. Statewide, there were 7,704 new cases reported on Thursday, Dec. 30 — the highest number of one-day new cases since the start of the pandemic.
  • Case rates: For the first time, Wilton’s two-week average number of daily COVID cases hit double digits, on Dec. 23; by Dec. 30, it reached the highest it’s been, at 18.43 cases. Comparing that to other towns, Wilton’s two-week rolling average per 100,000 people hit an astronomical 100.70 cases — see the spike in the chart below tracking that metric since the start of the pandemic.

[Correction: An earlier version of this story featured a graph that was incorrectly color shaded. This version correctly reflects the risk colors matched to numbers of cases.] 

  • Test positivity:  Wilton hit its highest-ever one-day test positivity rate of 14.35% on Dec. 29; so did Connecticut, with the statewide one-day test positivity rate reaching a record 20.33% on Dec. 30.

[Editor’s note: these statistics provided by the CT-DPH also reflect only those tests and positive cases recorded by the state. They do not account for anyone using only at-home test kits, or other cases that may go unreported — for example, any out-of-state college student who tested positive before returning to Connecticut over holiday break.]

  • Hospitalizations: While the CT-DPH doesn’t report on the number of people from Wilton who are hospitalized, the number of people statewide who are hospitalized due to COVID have risen to similar levels (1,151 as of Dec. 30) as were seen during the second wave in December 2020.  Of note, there were 150 new hospitalizations in one day (on Dec. 29).

Of the 1,151 patients currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, 819 (71.2%) are not fully vaccinated. Information released by the state health officials indicated that unvaccinated individuals currently have the following relative risk compared to anyone vaccinated:

    • 3 times higher risk of being infected with COVID-19
    • 33 times higher risk of dying from COVID-19
    • 12 times higher risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19
  • Deaths: As of Dec. 28, there have been 9,160 COVID-associated deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic, up 83 in the past week. Wilton has reported 50 COVID-related deaths thus far (down from 51 after the state made a correction in October). The two most recent deaths occurred in September 2021 and March 2021.
  • Vaccinations:  Wilton’s already high vaccination rates have inched even higher. As of the most recent weekly update from the CT-DPH on Thursday, Dec. 29, 93% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 82% of those who are eligible have received a second dose.

While case numbers have skyrocketed, the anecdotal GOOD news is that Omicron seems to have a much milder impact with less severe symptoms, especially for anyone fully vaccinated and boostered.

Test Kit Chaos

Accompanying the sharp rise in COVID cases is the frenzy on access to COVID testing. Coupled with increased demand from people who looked to use tests to be reassured about gathering during the holidays or to confirm suspicions of illness, at-home testing kits became 2021’s version of hard-to-find toilet paper at the pandemic’s start. But disappointment seemed to be the only thing left on the shelves for shoppers looking to find at-home test kits, as area stores have often sold out as soon as a new shipment of COVID self-tests comes in.

Residents report that available appointments at testing centers are hard to find as well. On Sunday, Jan. 2, the drive-up testing location at Norwalk’s Veteran’s Park hit full capacity for the day by 8:45 a.m., with officials turning away anyone who arrived after that.

Last Monday, Dec. 27, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a plan to distribute 500,000 home testing kits to CT towns — but that plan fell apart two days later when, according to the Hartford Courant, the state was outbid. Although Lamont scrambled to cobble together another 465,000 test kits from other sources — and reportedly paid a good deal more than the original deal’s $18.5 million — the kits arrived too late on Friday, Dec. 31 for Wilton and other towns to proceed with planned distribution events.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said that Wilton “[has] confirmed receipt of the tests,” but hasn’t pinpointed how many or how the town will distribute them.

“The first priority for the tests is for the town’s essential employees, and the schools’ essential employees — we’re waiting to get those numbers. Hopefully we’ll have them [Monday]. And then we’ll be able to determine how many tests we will be distributing and we can put the plan in place,” she said.

In the meantime, after telling residents in an email message that several town personnel were out sick due to COVID, Vanderslice implemented a mask mandate for all municipal buildings regardless of vaccination status, “in a further effort to reduce the accelerated spread of the virus among town employees.” The order is in place “until further notice” inside Town Hall, the Town Hall Annex, Police Headquarters, Fire Headquarters, Fire Station 2 and Comstock Community Center. Anyone medically unable to wear a mask is asked to contact the department for the intended visit for alternate arrangements.

One other Wilton location has also put a mandatory mask policy in place — visitors to the Wilton Family YMCA are required to wear a mask inside the facilities regard of COVID vaccination status. In an email to members, the announcement stated that “mask wearing is strongly recommended while exercising but not required at this point.”